Patriot League Tournament Preview & Season Wrap-Up

Posted by KDoyle on February 29th, 2012

Kevin Doyle is the RTC correspondent for the Patriot League. The PL is among the first of this season’s conference tournaments to tip, with action set to start tonight. You can find him on Twitter @KLDoyle11.

Tournament Preview 

The Favorite: Despite losing back-to-back games against Lehigh and Holy Cross down the stretch, and a less than stellar performance against bottom-dweller Navy, Bucknell remains the favorite to win the Patriot League. The Patriot League Tournament—like many of the smaller conference tournaments around the country—has its championship game located at the highest remaining seed. Playing in the friendly confines of Sojka Pavilion has treated the Bison quite well over the past two seasons as they are a combined 26-3 there. The last road team to win the PLT was, ironically enough, Bucknell back in the 2004-05 season in Worcester against Holy Cross. Home court does have its perks, and Bucknell can rest easy knowing that if they take care of business all three tournament games will be played in Lewisburg. Semantics and seeding aside though, it also doesn’t hurt that Bucknell has far and away the league’s best big man in Mike Muscala. Steady guard Cameron Ayers, sharpshooter Bryson Johnson, and a lunch pail kind of player in Joe Willman make the Bison a formidable group. More on the Muscala—or, as the Bison faithful like to call him, “Moose”—later.

Dark Horse: Back in early February, the Holy Cross Crusaders looked as if they had mailed it in. Poor efforts on the defensive end, not playing as a cohesive unit, and questionable game preparation all contributed, among other things, to a 3-5 start in league play. After being on the wrong end of a 75-51 drubbing at Lehigh, something clearly happened inside the Holy Cross locker room and during practice sessions; the Crusaders’ six game winning streak, their longest since the beginning of the 2007-08 season, did not happen by chance. While the offense is still inconsistent and stalls during inopportune times, the defense has spearheaded the late charge. During the first eight games of league play, Holy Cross gave up an average of 69 points per game. Since then, they are giving up a remarkable 54.7 points. All that being said, the Crusaders have greatly struggled on the road (4-11) and the road to the Patriot League Championship in all likelihood runs through either Bucknell or Lehigh. A tall task for the Crusaders no doubt, but they are peaking at the right time.

Who’s Hot: Hide the women and children, C.J. McCollum is playing his best basketball of the season and the vaunted Lehigh offense is clicking on all cylinders as the Mountain Hawks enter the tournament. Over the course of their last 10 games—nine of them wins—McCollum is averaging 23.4 points. His lowest output during this run was 15 points against Bucknell, but his final three points of this contest came just before the buzzer as he connected on a triple from the top of the key to propel Lehigh to a comeback victory.

Some may call McCollum cocky and arrogant—especially in the preceding clip as he stares down the Bucknell student section—but his play certainly backs it up.

Player to Watch: All eyes will be on C.J. McCollum, but it behooves you to overlook the Patriot League’s best forward in several year: Mike Muscala. The junior from Minnesota is one of the most efficient players on the offensive end you will see this year as he shoots better than 50% from the field and close to 90% from the charity stripe—not too shabby for a 6’11 guy. On the defensive end, Muscala is on the verge of cracking the Top 10 in the Patriot League for blocks all time. What goes unnoticed is how intelligent he is on the floor with his exceptional positioning and court awareness. Muscala has not fouled out of a game this season, and has only picked up four fouls once. Staying out of foul trouble has enabled him to earn 30 minutes a night and really increased his production. While much of the talk from the media and those outside of Patriot League circles will be of McCollum, don’t forget the “Moose” at Bucknell.

Game to Watch: Lafayette @ Holy Cross—After having their season ended by Lafayette the past two years, Holy Cross will look to return the favor this time around. In the regular season, the teams split the season series with each team winning on the opponent’s home floor. The last time the teams met in Worcester, Holy Cross jumped out to a 24-14 halftime lead only to be outscored by 21 points in the second half. Lafayette will be at a major disadvantage in the third meeting though as Second-Team All-League performer Tony Johnson is out for the rest of the year with an ankle injury.

How’d They Fare: Bucknell was trounced by eventual National Champions Connecticut 81-52. It may be hard to believe, but this score doesn’t reflect how lopsided the game actually was. Bucknell looked to push the tempo and played exclusively man-to-man throughout the game, but simply did not have the horses that Connecticut had. Sometimes, the brains can outplay the talent, but very rarely are they able to outrun them.

A Look Back

How’d I Do? – Prior to the season beginning, here is how I saw things shaking out (preseason on the left, final standings on the right):

  1. Bucknell (11-3)                  1.     Bucknell (12-2)
  2. Lehigh (9-5)                        2.     Lehigh (11-3)
  3. Holy Cross (7-7)               3.     American (10-4)
  4. Colgate (7-7)                      4.     Holy Cross (9-5)
  5. American (6-8)                  5.     Lafayette (7-7)
  6. Navy (6-8)                           6.     Army (5-9)
  7. Lafayette (6-8)                  7.     Colgate (2-12)
  8. Army (4-10)                        8.     Navy (0-14)

I was right on the mark in predicting that Bucknell and Lehigh would finish one/two, and that Holy Cross would finish in the top four, but believed in Colgate and Navy more than I should have and undersold American. (Just as an aside, Jeff Jones has never finished in the bottom four of the Patriot League and American has advanced to the semifinals in every year they have been in the league. Clearly, I have learned to no longer bet against coach Jones.)

As for Colgate, the Raiders performed up to many expectations in the non-conference, but struggled in the Patriot League against all teams not named Navy. Given that the Raiders are a senior laden team who finished last season going 6-8 down the stretch, I believed Matt Langel would have that moderate success carry over—it did not. Although, it should be known that their star forward Yaw Gyawu has been hindered by injuries for much of the year—Gyawu was pegged as a member of my All-League Team in the preseason.

All-League Team (statistics from conference games only)

  • G C.J. McCollum, Lehigh (23.8 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 3.4 APG, 2.6 SPG)
  • G Charles Hinkle, American (16.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.1 APG, 47.6 3PT%)
  • F Ella Ellis, Army (17.4 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.6 APG, 89.2 FT%)
  • F Ryan Willen, Lafayette (14.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.5 APG, 82.1 FT%)
  • F Mike Muscala, Bucknell (18.9 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 89.5 FT%)

All-Rookie Team (statistics from conference games only)

  • G Justin Burrell, Holy Cross (7.8 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 3.4 APG, 2.0 A/TO)
  • G Seth Hinrichs, Lafayette (7.4 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 50.0 3PT%)
  • G Maxwell  Lenox, Army (7.6 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.4 SPG)
  • F Worth Smith, Navy (6.2 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.2 BPG)
  • F Dan Trist, Lafayette (6.8 PPG, 2.1 RPG)

Player of the Year: C.J. McCollum, Lehigh—This has been a two player race for much of the season, even though American fans would like to think that Charles Hinkle was in the discussion, but, in the end, the Player of the Year debate was going to come between C.J. McCollum and Mike Muscala. Arguments can easily be made for both players. Each is the focal point of their team and have experienced a good deal of success as individual players. However, it was McCollum’s dominance and ability to take over a game makes him the Player of the Year. Not a shot against Muscala at all, but it is easier for a 6’3 guard to take over a basketball game than a 6’11 forward. McCollum ranks sixth nationally in points per game at 21.7, but is more than just a scorer—the rest of his stat line reflects that. By many accounts, he has become more of a complete player, but certainly understands when he needs to carry Lehigh.

Coach of the Year: Jeff Jones, American—Losing virtually his entire frontcourt with Vlad Moldoveanu graduating and Stephen Lumpkins pursuing a career in baseball, Jeff Jones’ outlook for the year was bleak. Relying on transfers who had only been with the program for a year and two forwards who seldom saw the floor a year before, Jones had his work cut out for him. Fortunately for him, Charles Hinkle—one of the transfers from Vanderbilt—emerged early in the season as a reliable scorer, and sophomore Tony Wroblicky proved to be a serviceable big man. Even still, Jones turned a team that seemed destined for the middle-of-the-pack into a title contender.

Rookie of the Year: Seth Hinrichs, Lafayette—The 6’7 guard from Minnesota is a pure shooter in every sense of the word, and fits perfectly into Fran O’Hanlon’s jump shot friendly offense. Although Hinrichs has the height that would suggest he is a forward in the Patriot League, he lacks the bulk and size to work in the paint, and with a shot like his it would be foolish to put him down there. Hinrichs shot an impressive 50% from three, 54.8% from the field, and averaged 7.4 points all in Patriot League play. With Ryan Willen and Jim Mower graduating, Hinrichs will become a primary option next year for Lafayette.

Defensive Player of the Year: Bryan Cohen, Bucknell—Rather than bore you with analysis on Cohen’s ability to shut down an opponent’s top scoring threat, I’ll let the following numbers do the talking:

Lehigh, American, and Holy Cross were three of the top four teams in the Patriot League. Against these teams, Cohen has done a remarkable job limiting the scoring production of C.J. McCollum, Charles Hinkle, and Devin Brown.

Player

Average points against all PL teams other than Bucknell

Average points scored against Bucknell

C.J. McCollum

25.3

14.5

Charles Hinkle

18.3

7.5

Devin Brown

15

7.5

One can attribute the disparity in scoring to a poor shooting night, but such a pattern suggests that Cohen is a significant part of the lower scoring output. Dave Paulsen has a real luxury in matching him up with the opposition’s top scorer and knowing life will be made very difficult for him. Cohen was recently tabbed as the Patriot League’s Defensive Player of the Year; this is the third time he has received the honor. I’d like to see any other player garner such an award three times in their career—quite the feat.

6th Man of the Year: Mike Cavataio, Holy Cross—It has been quite the journey for Holy Cross senior swingman Mike Cavataio, just take a gander at his lengthy college basketball timeline:

  • 2007-08: Played under Norm Roberts at St. John’s where he saw six minutes of action per game and made one start during Big East play against Marquette
  • 2008-09: Transferred to Holy Cross to play under Ralph Willard, but had to sit out the entire season
  • 2009-10: In his first season of eligibility, he played under first year coach Sean Kearney and averaged 11.3 points in 31 games
  • 2010-11: After Sean Kearney was fired after one year, he played under Milan Brown and averaged 8.9 points in 29 games
  • 2011-12: He was injured in the first game of the season against the College of Charleston and missed every game in the non-conference. He returned January 7th against Lehigh

Suffice it to say, this is not how Mike Cavataio drew up his college basketball career. Coming out of St. Francis Prep in New York, Cavataio had aspirations of lighting up Madison Square Garden playing for St. John’s. He soon realized that he could earn more minutes and play a significant role at a smaller school, and Holy Cross seemed like the perfect fit—a successful mid-major program under the tutelage of Ralph Willard. After sitting out a year, experiencing five different coaches between high school and college ball, and suffering through an injury—something he is accustomed to after breaking the same ankle twice during his sophomore year in high school—Cavataio has developed into the prototypical sixth man. He provides an instant spark off the bench with his defense—the Crusaders best on-ball defender—and mid-range and slashing ability on offense. Although he averages a mere 5.4 points, many of his contributions do not show up in the box score, something that his teammates and keen observes would tell you.

Most Improved Player: Charles Hinkle, American—Whatever Charles Hinkle did during the summer months and offseason, it worked. After averaging 11.6 points last year, many assumed that Troy Brewer would have to carry the load this season. And Brewer has been no slouch averaging 12 points a night, but the emergence of Hinkle as the go-to guy has alleviated the pressure Brewer and others may have felt. In his first three seasons, Hinkle rarely shot from behind the arc, and when he did he shot just 25%. This year, he is almost 20 percentage points better at 43.4%. His scoring average by year: 2.0, 1.4, 4.4, 18.8. A 14.4 point increase from his junior to senior season—unheard of. Jones told the Washington Post earlier this month: “We knew he was a good player, we knew he could help us. How much and in what role, that was up in the air. He was playing a role of working hard, good defense, as opposed to what he does best: shooting the ball in the basket.” I’d say that Hinkle has found is role just fine for Jeff Jones.

Game of the Year: Lehigh 56 Bucknell 53 (February 16th at Sojka Pavilion)—It was far from the prettiest game: more turnovers than assists, a combined 9-39 shooting from behind the arc, both teams shooting below 37%, and neither team cracking the 60 point mark, but the Lehigh-Bucknell tilt in Lewisburg was a dandy. In what may be a prelude to the championship game, a C.J. McCollum three pointer—this shot alone may have earned him the Patriot League Player of the Year award—won the game for Lehigh and ended Bucknell’s Patriot League winning streak at an impressive 20 games.

Share this story

Jumping To Conclusions: The Wheels Are Coming Off The St. John’s Rebuilding Bus

Posted by mlemaire on December 9th, 2011

In 2010, after six lackluster seasons — including zero NCAA Tournament appearances — under head coach Norm Roberts, St. John’s basketball needed to make a switch. But the program didn’t just need a coach who could develop players and win games. They needed a walking, talking defibrillator. Someone who could inject some life and enthusiasm back into one of the country’s most storied programs. What they got was Steve Lavin, an affable former television personality with plenty of coaching pedigree and the desire to talk to everybody he ran into.

Steve Lavin Was Hired To Rebuild At St. John's Because Of His Infectious Personality.

It didn’t matter that Lavin hadn’t coached college basketball since he was relieved of his duties by UCLA in 2003, the buzz was back. Red Storm Athletic Director Chris Monasch said, with Lavin, “St. John’s is poised to recapture its legacy as New York’s college team.” Lavin wasted no time, hitting the recruiting trail running and accepting every interview that came his way. He assembled an experienced and energetic staff and recruits took interest.

Last season, coaching a roster that boasted nine seniors, including the team’s top six scorers, Lavin earned plenty of praise and accolades as he led the Red Storm to a 21-12 record and its first NCAA Tournament bid since 2002. Everyone knew the team would take a step back this season due to the mass graduation but most figured it was merely a bump in the road. After all, Lavin was bringing in the nation’s third-ranked recruiting class, a nine-man behemoth that had a player or two at almost every position. And thanks to Lavin’s effusive personality and charm, high-ranked recruiting classes were expected to become the status quo at St. John’s in short order. Then, rather quickly, the bus started to break down.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Who’s Got Next? Recruiting Scandals, Updated Player Interests and More…

Posted by Josh Paunil on May 10th, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Each week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are in the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com. 

Introduction

From another recruiting scandal to new developments on an old recruiting scandal, this week has been full of news and headlines in the high school basketball world and also includes the best class of 2012 guard in the country de-committing. There have been several updates as well on top prospects from sophomores to seniors regarding their favorite schools and numerous guys have continued to step up their performances throughout the AAU circuit.  Let’s take a deeper look…

What We Learned 

Rodney Purvis (#7) is considering Duke, Kentucky, Louisville and North Carolina State after de-committing.

Louisville Loses Purvis. In a somewhat expected move, the best Class of 2012 guard in the country, shooting guard Rodney Purvis (#7), backed out of his commitment to Louisville after assistant coach Tim Fuller left to take a job at Missouri. However, Louisville has brought in a new assistant coach, Kevin Keatts, who has coached many guys from Purvis’ AAU team and has done well recruiting in the Raleigh area, Purvis’ hometown. Before he chose the Cardinals, Purvis considered Duke, Kentucky, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and Xavier, among others, but has already come out with a new list featuring Duke and Kentucky (again), Louisville (still), and North Carolina State. North Carolina and Missouri are also expected to jump in because Purvis is an RTP native and has obvious ties with the Tigers since their new assistant coach is the reason he chose the Cardinals orginally. Purvis said he’ll be looking for a stable coaching situation and a strong relationship with a staff going forward (to see the rest of Purvis’ comments, check out the “What They’re Saying” section below) and that he hasn’t ruled out Louisville. Another thing to note is that he hasn’t yet talked to new NC State head coach Mark Gottfried

High School Powerhouse Oak Hill Adds Elite Shooting Guard. In a surprising move, Class of 2012 shooting guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (#32) will be transferring from North Central High School (IN) to powerhouse Oak Hill Academy (VA) for his senior season. Smith-Rivera will be joining an already talented squad that has junior wings Jordan Adams (#50) and Damien Wilson as well as center A.J. Hammons (#48). The news was confirmed Saturday night by his mother, Kelana Rivera, but shocked North Central head coach Doug Mitchell (see the “What They’re Saying” section below). Smith-Rivera was a three-year starter and played a key role in North Central’s 2010 state championship. He committed to Xavier last year but later de-committed and told us that Texas, Baylor, UCLA and Georgetown are his favorites right now. He also hasn’t made any public statements about this transfer but Rivera cited playing for Oak Hill head coach Steve Smith and the good opportunity to prepare for college as to why he’s doing so.

Tony Wroten, Jr., Involved In Academic Scandal. Just one week after the Kevin Ware and UCF recruiting scandal, the Seattle Times discovered that the Garfield High School (WA) athletic director in 2010, Jim Valiere, had given Class of 2011 point guard Tony Wroten Jr. (#14 – Washington) and another star athlete passing grades in a Spanish class that never existed. Wroten, Jr., and the other student, Valentino Coleman, told an investigator that Valiere did little more than occasionally quiz them in the hallway last year. The UW commitment needed the class since it requires two years of foreign language credits to enroll. Now you would think that after an investigation discovered this incident, the Athletic Director would try to keep his hands clean, but right after this he created a tiny three-person remedial Spanish class taught by a substitute teachers specifically for Wroten, Jr. This class was district-approved but keep in mind that Garfield High School is already overcrowded and is cutting teachers due to the economy like everyone else. Despite all of this controversy and scandal, if Wroten, Jr., passes his final semester of Spanish this school year, the situation will not affect his UW eligibility, school officials said.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 04.13.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 13th, 2011

  1. A number of players made NBA stay/go decisions on Tuesday, beginning with RTC NPOY Kemba Walker, who formally announced that he will be heading to the League after his junior season, the most celebrated in UConn men’s basketball history.  The point guard projected as a lottery pick will sign with an agent soon, leaving no possibility of an encore performance in Storrs.  On the other side of the country involving a player in the same high school class as Walker, UCLA point guard Malcolm Lee announced that he too is leaving for the NBA and will sign with an agent.  Despite being a top recruit three seasons ago, Lee never quite became the superstar he was supposed to be, and is currently only projected as a second round pick in this summer’s draft.  UCLA head coach Ben Howland had counseled Lee to return for his senior season, but he decided that it was time to move on from Westwood (maybe he didn’t want to play in the LA Sports Arena — we wouldn’t blame him).
  2. Two other athletic phenoms will also be entering this year’s NBA Draft, as Georgia’s Travis Leslie and Florida State’s Chris Singleton announced on Tuesday their intentions to leave college a year early.  Leslie formally made his announcement yesterday, joining all-SEC forward Trey Thompkins in leaving Mark Fox’s program, while Singleton hasn’t officially announced yet but was apparently outed by his school’s media relations department in this report about his upcoming Wednesday press conference.  Both players are likely first round selections.
  3. In a phenomenal indication as to just how difficult it is perceived to win at The U, Harvard’s Tommy Amaker decided on Tuesday he’d rather stay in Cambridge as the head coach of the Crimson rather than moving south to Coral Gables as the Hurricanes seek to replace Frank Haith.  Amaker must figure that if he can get Harvard to the NCAA Tournament next season (a distinct possibility), he’ll have a much better choice of winning jobs at his disposal — probably a smart move.  Now, Miami is said to be looking at Mike Davis (Alabama-Birmingham), Tony Barbee (Auburn), Donnie Jones (UCF), Billy Kennedy (Murray State) and Rob Jeter (Wisconsin-Milwaukee) as possible new candidates.
  4. There was a big piece of transfer news on Tuesday, as former Utah star Will Clyburn announced that he will be matriculating at Iowa State next year and become eligible to play in Ames for the 2012-13 season.  Expressing a desire to move closer to his home town of Chicago (and having played JuCo ball at nearby Marshalltown CC), the all-MWC forward who averaged 17/8 last season is excited to join a program under Fred Hoiberg that he feels is moving in the right direction.
  5. Billy Donovan’s Florida staff suddenly looks like a dream team of sorts as the school announced the hiring of former Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey and former St. John’s head coach Norm Roberts on Tuesday.  Pelphrey and Donovan, of course, are very close, with the duo coming up together at Marshall and earning their stripes later at Florida in the 1990s, building UF into a national power before Pelphrey moved on to South Alabama and Arkansas.  Both Pelphrey and Roberts found themselves in tough situations, but it’s safe to say that these will be short-lived stopovers for them until other big-name schools offer them another chance.  It’s certainly better than sitting on your couch.
Share this story

The NCAA’s Verdicts On Calhoun & Pearl Raise More Questions

Posted by nvr1983 on February 23rd, 2011

Within a span of 24 hours the NCAA released a pair of statements that sent shock waves through NCAA coaching circles. The first involving Connecticut and its Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun had been expected since Yahoo! Sports broke the story on the recruitment of Nate Miles in March 2009, while the other involved Tennessee and both its basketball and football programs in an ongoing process, but just came to the media’s attention within the past year. While the verdict on Calhoun and the release of the NCAA’s notice of allegations against Tennessee has created quite a bit of controversy, they also raise a lot of questions.

Calhoun was less than thrilled with the NCAA's ruling

Before we get into the questions, it’s probably best to lay out each of the cases:

Connecticut

The Huskies were cited for the recruitment of Nate Miles that involved the use of a former student-manager-turned-agent Josh Nochimson who reportedly helped direct Miles to Storrs. Nochimson reportedly dealt with two UConn assistants in Patrick Sellars and Beau Archibald, both of whom are no longer with the program. According to the NCAA’s official release “the case includes more than $6,000 in improper recruiting inducements, (150) impermissible phone calls and (190) text messages to prospective student-athletes, failure to monitor and promote an atmosphere for compliance by the head coach, failure to monitor by the university, and unethical conduct by the former operations director, among other violations.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Past Imperfect: The Reign of Doughnut Man

Posted by JWeill on February 3rd, 2011

Past Imperfect is a new series focusing on the history of the game. Every Thursday, RTC contributor JL Weill (@AgonicaBoss) highlights some piece of historical arcana that may (or may not) be relevant to today’s college basketball landscape. This week: the sine-wave career arc of Doughnut Man.

It’s still one of the NCAA tournament’s most indelible moments: disheveled Princeton coach Pete Carril grinning in disbelief moments after his backdoor-cutting Tigers stunned defending national champion UCLA in the first round of the 1996 NCAA tournament. Replayed over and over through the years, the moment resonates because it captures the essence of what college basketball’s great March tradition is all about: little guy beats big guy, Cinderella at the dance, etc. But lost in all those good vibes for the white-haired coaching legend is that the other side in that game, the losing coach seen congratulating Carril on his career-defining victory, in its own way represents college basketball, too. In many ways, perhaps more so.

Pete Carril and Sydney Johnson celebrate the win over UCLA.

No one fathomed at the time that the upset loss would be Jim Harrick’s last as head coach of the UCLA Bruins. A year removed from the school’s first national title in two decades, flush with a contract extension, with a bevy of blue chip recruits on the verge of replenishing his team’s talent level for years to come, Harrick looked to have it all working. Then, in the course of a few months, it was all over. Harrick was out. Assistant Steve Lavin, with no head coaching experience at all, was in as interim coach.

How did it all go south so quickly? The answer is a tale of two coaches, of lies and deception, of risks taken and undying myths writ large. It’s an ugly story, without much grace and lacking humility. It is, in short, the story of college basketball at the highest levels.

*      *      *

It is amusing now to go back and look at statements of outrage former coach Jim Harrick made about his abrupt dismissal by UCLA in 1996. At the time, Harrick was the man who’d brought UCLA back from the ether. The West Virginian had been all smiles hoisting the national championship trophy along with Ed O’Bannon, Tyus Edney and the victorious Bruins. And rightfully so. Harrick had taken a job a slew of previous coaches had tried to tame and done the only thing he’d been hired to do: win a national title again. Favorite sons Walt Hazzard, Gary Cunningham and Larry Farmer didn’t do it. Future coaching legends Gene Bartow and Larry Brown couldn’t do it, either. But the onetime UCLA assistant – the guy who never even played college basketball – did it. And he did it his own way, with style.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Summer School in the Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 16th, 2010


Rob Dauster of Ballin’ is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

Around The Big East:

  • NCAA Sanctions: From a basketball perspective, the biggest story in the Big East this summer was up at UConn. The Huskies received a notice of allegations from the NCAA in May, informing them of eight major violations in the recruitment of Nate Miles. UConn will find out its final punishment from the NCAA in October, but the violations have already cost them two assistants — Beau Archibald and Brad Sellers, the son of former Husky star Rod Sellers. Jim Calhoun avoided the heavy artillery — getting grazed with a citation for “failure to monitor” the program, which is ironically what the best coaches need to do to succeed.
  • Coaches: The NCAA infractions weren’t the only reason Calhoun was in the news. Ailing health as he nears 70, impending NCAA sanctions, a team that is going to need some rebuilding, and the fact his contract was up made many believe Calhoun would hang ‘em up this summer. Wrong. He signed a five-year deal instead.  Calhoun had far from the worst summer for coaches in the Big East. Rick Pitino let the world — and every single opposing student section — know about his 15-second tryst on a restaurant table with one Karen Sypher. Bob Huggins fell, a result of being in Vegas the medicine he took on an empty stomach making him light-headed, and broke seven ribs. Fred Hill was run out of Rutgers, in part because he lost it on the Pittsburgh baseball team’s coaching staff. Through all of that, perhaps the worst summer was had by Bobby Gonzalez, who lost his job at Seton Hall, had the entire episode come out in the New York Timessued his former employer, was unable to receive credentials at the NBA Draft, and then find himself arrested for attempting to steal a $1,400 man-purse satchel. The three new coaches to the conference: Oliver Purnell left Clemson for DePaul; Mike Rice left Robert Morris to fill in for Hill at Rutgers; and Kevin Willard left Iona and took Gonzo’s spot at Seton Hall.
  • LOIs: Three Big East teams made headlines for issues with recruits signing LOIs. DePaul initially refused to release Walter Pitchford, Jr., from his LOI. He signed with Jerry Wainwright, who was at DePaul before Purnell was tabbed. After appealing both the school and the NCAA, DePaul finally released Pitchford. The same thing is currently happening to Joseph Young at Providence, who as of this writing has not yet been granted a release by the Friars. At MarquetteDJ Newbill was dropped from his LOI when Buzz Williams had the opportunity to bring in former top 100 recruit Jamil Wilson, a transfer from Oregon. All in all, Big East members did not shine bright this summer.
  • Back to Providence: Man oh man, did they have a rough summer. Two freshmen kicked out of school for beating up a student. Their star, Greedy Peterson, thrown off the team. Another player arrested.  Did Keno Davis have this much trouble in mind when he took the job two years ago?
  • Seton Hall Didn’t Fare Much Better: Aside from their coach being kicked to the curb, the Pirates had their best big man spend nearly a month in the hospital because he collapsed after finishing a workouts and saw Robert “Sticks” Mitchell get arrested for (get this) robbing eight people at gunpoint just two days after being kicked off the team.

Villanova stumbled towards the finish line last season. This year, Jay Wright’s troops are Rob Dauster’s favorites to take the Big East in 2010-11.

Power Rankings:

  1. Villanova: While the Wildcats lose All-American Scottie Reynolds, Jay Wright‘s club (as always) will be more than fine in the backcourt. Corey Fisher, fresh off an alleged 105-point performance in a Bronx summer league, and Maalik Wayns will be as dynamic as any backcourt in the country and should be able to thrive in Scottie’s absence. Corey Stokes is still going to be a lights out shooter. Dominic Cheek and James Bell will be dangerous on the wings. Up front, the five-man rotation of Antonio Pena, Mouph Yarou, Isaiah Armwood, Maurice Sutton, and JayVaughn Pinkston gives Villanova a very deep, very talented roster for the upcoming season. The Wildcats should compete for the Big East title and, depending on how well some players develop (Armwood, Cheek, Wayns, Yarou) and how good a couple of freshmen are (Bell, Pinkston), Nova could very well make a run at the Final Four.
  2. Pittsburgh: The Panthers were the surprise of the Big East last season, and with the majority of their roster coming back this season, its tough to envision Pitt falling off. Pitt has almost reached the level of a Wisconsin — no matter who is on their roster, this is a team that is disciplined and well-coached to the point that they are always going to be competitive. As always, expect a gritty, defensive-minded team from the Panthers. An already-solid back court of Ashton Gibbs, Brad Wanamaker, and Travon Woodall will be bolstered by the addition of freshmen Isaiah Epps, JJ Moore and Cameron Wright, as well as Lamar Patterson finally getting healthy. Gilbert Brown, who missed the first half of last season due to academic issues, will be back at the small forward spot. Brown had an inconsistent season in 2010, but showed flashes of some serious potential. Gary McGhee and Nasir Robinson will bolster the front line, but the real x-factor on this team is going to be sophomore Dante Taylor. Taylor was one of the most highly-touted recruits last year, but it took him awhile to adjust to the Big East. If Taylor can live up to his promise, Pitt is a potential Final Four team. If not, this is still a club that will be competing for a league title.
  3. Syracuse: It is easy to look at the Orange and think that, with the players they lost (Wes Johnson, Andy Rautins, Arinze Onuaku), they will be down next season. Well, they might not win a Big East title, but they certainly will be in the mix atop the conference standings. Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine will anchor the backcourt, with freshman Dion Waiters providing an offensive spark as an off-guard. Kris Joseph should blossom into a dangerous weapon as a slasher on the wing, and if he can add some strength and a jumper this summer, could very well be in the running as a first-team all-Big East selection. Rick Jackson will be paired with Fab Melo, who Jim Boeheim has been raving about (he raved about Johnson last summer, and look how that turned out), in the frontcourt. With guys like CJ Fair, Mookie Jones, James Southerland and DaShonte Riley providing minutes off the bench, there is no doubt Syracuse will be a good team. How good — borderline top-25 or a potential Big East champ — remains to be seen. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Wanted: Coaching Talent Willing to Move to NYC Area

Posted by rtmsf on March 22nd, 2010

Ryan Restivo is an RTC correspondent and contributor.  He writes for SienaSaintsBlog as well as RotoSavants.com in his spare time.

Norm Roberts and Bobby Gonzalez joined the unemployment line this past week after both failed at Big East jobs.  Roberts, a former Kansas assistant coach and player at Queens College, could not hold onto the local talent in New York City to win at St. John’s. The Red Storm barely missed out on Lance Stephenson, losing him to Big East foe Cincinnati, which combined with an 81-101 record in six years brought him to the firing line.

Roberts Was Let Go on Friday (AP/N. Wass)

Meanwhile, across the Hudson in South Orange, it was Bobby Gonzalez’s fiery personality that did him in at Seton Hall. After four years and no NCAA Tournament appearances, Gonzalez was shown the door.  The firing came days after former Pirate Robert Mitchell was arrested and charged with kidnapping, robbery, burglary and possession of a weapon. The Pirates didn’t show much discipline on Tuesday night either: star Herb Pope was ejected in Tuesday night’s NIT game for punching a Texas Tech player in the groin and Gonzalez receive his seventh technical foul of the season.

The Dean of Seton Hall Law School, Patrick E. Hobbs, who also oversees the athletic department, said the school decided to fire Gonzalez before learning of Mitchell’s arrest.  Now both will be in the search to find candidates to bring more energy, and most of all wins, to the New York metro area schools.  Hobbs said that the contract extension given to Gonzalez was no additional financial risk for a school that cut four sports in February to save $1.5 million. Sources have said Seton Hall is expected to be looking to pay around $500,000 or slightly more as an annual salary to its next coach.

Meanwhile St. John’s was paying Roberts approximately $650,000 annually and could be expected to shell out more money for the candidate they desire. St. John’s Athletic Director Chris Monasch said the parameters of the coach they are looking for include NCAA Tournament appearances and good character. “We want to hire someone who has a record of success of getting into the NCAA tournament,” Monasch said to the AP. “In trying to find the right person, probably the safest choice is someone who has done it at this level, someone who believes in the mission of school and understands New York.”

Would Greenberg Entertain a Move to NYC?

No doubt the job that has better upside is St. John’s over Seton Hall. The Red Storm will return over 90% of its roster, nine scholarship rising seniors, and went 17-16 this year in Roberts’ highest win total. The Red Storm could be one big-time star New York City recruit away from being a Big East contender next year.  Here are some of the top names floating around as potential candidates for each of these two jobs.

Share this story

Checking in on… the Ivy League

Posted by nvr1983 on March 12th, 2010

Dave Zeitlin is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.

This season saw an unprecedented three teams reach the 20-win plateau in the Ivy League — a dominant Cornell team headed to the NCAA Tournament (expected); a young, but extremely talented Harvard team (disappointing); and a resurgent Princeton team (surprising). Hopefully the latter two have earned an invite to one of the myriad of lesser post-season tournaments. Here’s a look at the final standings:

  1. Cornell (13-1, 27-4): The final go-around for 10 seniors proved to be the best. Now the goal for Louis Dale, Jeff Foote, Ryan Wittman et al is to win a game or two in the tournament. A preview of their chances can be found below.
  2. Princeton (11-3, 20-8): Two tough losses to Cornell sealed their fate, but they earned runner-up honors with a couple of victories over Harvard. A bright future with their top five scorers returning.
  3. Harvard (10-4, 21-7): Beat everyone except the top two. Jeremy Lin’s loss via graduation will be felt, but in freshmen Brandyn Curry and Christian Webster, the Crimson boast a backcourt that can compete with the best nationally. Next year’s preseason choice.
  4. Yale (6-8, 12-19): An up and down Ivy season for the Elis. The lone bright spot was All-Ivy senior guard Alex Zampier. He leaves New Haven as the school’s all-time assist leader while scoring over 1000 points.
  5. Columbia (5-9, 11-17): The Lions earn the fifth spot over co 5-9ers Brown and Penn by virtue of their head-to-head sweep of both teams. Next year’s team will be built around sophomore Noruwa Agho, their only double digit scorer.
  6. Brown (5-9, 11-20): Little to separate the Bears from the Quakers other than a slightly better overall record, so they get the nod here. Stat machine Matt Mullery (team leader in points, rebounds, and assists) leaves after a fine career.
  7. Penn (5-9, 6-22): The record was something that Palestra fans (those that showed up) were not used to. Nor were early-season injuries and a mid-season coaching change. Sophomore point guard and Player of the Year candidate Zack Rosen is already a star.
  8. Dartmouth (1-13, 5-23): Not much to cheer about in Hanover. Hopefully Mark Graupe can breathe some enthusiasm into a program that has pretty much been the league doormat for a while. Most of the top players return.

Postseason Awards
Without fanfare we present you with the best of the 2009-2010 Ivy League basketball season:

All-Conference Team

  • Ryan Wittman 6-7 Sr F—Cornell
  • Matt Mullery 6-8 Sr. F–Brown
  • Jeff Foote 7-0 Sr. C–Cornell
  • Jeremy Lin 6-3 Sr. G–Harvard
  • Zack Rosen 6-1 So. G–Penn
  • Alex Zampier 6-3 Sr, G—Yale
  • Louis Dale 5-11 Sr. G—Cornell

All-Freshman Team

  • Kyle Casey 6-7 F–Harvard
  • Tucker Halpern 6-8 F–Brown
  • Andrew McCarthy 6-8 F–Brown
  • Ian Hummer 6-7 F–Princeton
  • Brandyn Curry 6-1 G–Harvard
  • Christian Webster 6-5 G—Harvard

Statistical Leaders

  • Points per game: Zack Rosen (Penn)–17.7
  • FG %: Jeff Foote (Cornell)—62.3%
  • FT %: Zack Rosen (Penn)—86.2%
  • 3-point FG %: Jon Jaques (Cornell)—48.8%
  • Rebounds per game: Jeff Foote (Cornell)—8.2
  • Assists per game: Louis Dale (Cornell)—4.8
  • Steals per game: Jeremy Lin (Harvard)—2.5
  • Blocks per game: Greg Mangano (Yale)—2.0

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Buzz: Big East Chatter

Posted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2010

Rob Dauster from Ballin is a Habit reports in from the Big East Tournament on some of the big news this afternoon…

A couple quick notes here from the press room chatter:

  • Arinze Onuaku looks like he is going to be fine. He took a spill with about three minutes to go as Syracuse was trying to come back against Georgetown and had to be carried off the court. According to his doctor, however, it looks like the injury is just a strain and he should be ready go by the start of the NCAA Tournament.  “I think he’ll be back, unless something bad happens tomorrow. I’ve seen him worse,” Syracuse doctor Irving Raphael said after the game. “We’re hoping it’s just a strain, but tomorrow we’ll get an MRI. It’s already scheduled.”  Onuaku left on crutches.
  • The other story that has been floating around is in regards to St. John’s head coach Norm Roberts. NY Post writer Lenn Robbins filed a story this morning claiming that a source told him that Roberts was going to be fired.  But as of now, that seems to be just the rumor that is circulating as nothing official as been announced. I’ve said it numerous times, but my personal opinion is that they should give Roberts at least one more year. He’s bringing back 10 seniors and only loses Anthony Mason, Jr., from the rotation. His kids play hard and stay out of trouble. In this day and age, that’s saying something.
Share this story

Big East Tourney Daily Diary: 2d Round

Posted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2010

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is spending the week as the RTC correspondent at the Big East Tournament.  In addition to live-blogging select games throughout the tournament, he will post a nightly diary with his thoughts on each day’s action.  Here is his submission on the Second Round games.

Georgetown 69, South Florida 49

  • What is there to say about Georgetown that we don’t already know? This team is balanced, this team is poised, this team has size, they have shooting, they execute offensively, they are tough defensively. There is not anything this team cannot do… when they are playing well. The problem with that caveat is that they don’t always play well. So while they looked like a dark horse Final Four contender today, tomorrow they could come out and lose by 30 to Syracuse and I wouldn’t be surprised.
  • The difference in this game, believe it or not, was Georgetown’s transition game. South Florida loves to attack the basket, be it via the post up, the drive,or the offensive rebound. As a result, the Bulls on far too many occasions got caught with too many players in and around the paint. Georgetown took advantage, getting some easy baskets in transition and a number of open looks in secondary break situations.
  • South Florida didn’t hit their first three of the Big East tournament until there were 30 seconds left. And that was made by a walk-on. Tonight’s performance — five points from outside the paint and the foul line, only two prior to that final three — was only marginally better than yesterday. If you’re counting at home, South Florida had three baskets outside the paint in 80 minutes of basketball in MSG. Yeah, that’s not good.
  • USF was playing for a chance to make the NCAA Tournament. Now they are headed to the NIT.

Marquette 57, St. John’s 55

  • You don’t want to play Marquette in the tournament. There is no team in the country that is more battle tested than this group. The most impressive part? Its so obvious how much they have grown. Winning is a learned skill, and Marquette has learned. Marquette is probably going to end up in the #7-#10 range somewhere. Whatever #1 or #2 seed gets them won’t be pleased.
  • Buzz Williams is hilarious. First and foremost, his dances on the sideline are great. The one that left an impression with me today was the one-footed hop step with a leg kick on a three Marquette hit in the first half. In the presser he had some gems.
    • He said that he’d “play with these guys in the street anywhere in America”
    • He compared his trust for Cubillan to his trust of his wife
    • Regarding the overturned free throws at the end of the game, he said “my wife will get mad if I say anything because it would hurt my kid’s college fund.”
  • And do I need to mention this is a short, pudgy man with a big head shaved bald? All around hilarious guy.
  • Personally, I see no way that St. John’s can fire Norm Roberts this year. I touched on it yesterday, but this is a team that returns ten — 10 — seniors next year. Buzz Williams mentioned it in the presser after the game, but its obvious to those who watch St. John’s, no coach in the Big East has his team play harder than Roberts does. St. John’s has been very close in a number of games this year as well. He deserves at least one more season.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Ten Tuesday Scribbles…

Posted by zhayes9 on January 5th, 2010

RTC contributor and bracketologist Zach Hayes will deliver ten permeating thoughts every Tuesday as the season progresses.

1. More than the countless Big East tournament runs at the Garden, or the contention for conference regular season titles on a yearly basis, or reaching upper-echelon status in college basketball playing with no flashy All-American recruits, Jamie Dixon is proving his worth as a coach this year more than ever. Few teams lost as much talent, leadership, and production as senior point guard Levance Fields, dominating big man DeJuan Blair and outside threat Sam Young. The departure of these three mainstays plus two projected starters for 2009-10, Jermaine Dixon and Gilbert Brown, beginning the year MIA prompted many preseason prognosticators (including myself) to deem Pittsburgh a non-contender in the rugged Big East. My mistake, Jamie. The Panthers just finished one of their most difficult Big East road stretches of the year with two statement victories at previously undefeated Syracuse and at fringe-ranked Cincinnati. Sophomore Ashton Gibbs is taking his experience from playing under Dixon at the U19 Games to good use, running the Pitt offense with superb efficiency, shooting the ball lights out from deep and breaking the all-time Pitt record for consecutive free throws made in the process. Brown has his academics in order and used his athleticism to make a few back-breaking baskets against Cincy last night. Dixon provides stellar defense and outside shooting. It remains to be seen whether Pitt can stay at the top of the Big East with less talent than the other squads, but we do know that Dixon’s team will play smarter and tougher than any opponent. And that always gives them a fighting chance.

2. The most significant win this New Year’s week had to be Purdue running away from West Virginia to remain unblemished and surpass the Mountaineers as a projected #1 seed at this stage of the season. Purdue and coach Matt Painter have constructed their program unlike many of their other counterparts atop the rankings on a weekly basis. There’s no Xavier Henry, Avery Bradley, Devin Ebanks or John Wall walking through the doors of Mackey Arena to play for the Boilers for one or two years; instead, their 2009-10 highly ranked squad features a group of players that have been together for three straight seasons, such a rarity in the age of one-and-done players and the glorification of NBA riches. This specific group of players- Robbie Hummel, Chris Kramer, JaJuan Johnson, E’Twaun Moore, Keaton Grant- have practiced and played together for three straight years now, stepping up the ladder slowly but surely in the college hoops landscape. They took the Big Ten by surprise in 2007-08 before falling in the second round to Xavier and climbed up another step by reaching the Sweet 16 a season ago. This year they hope to reach the top and cut down the nets in nearby Indianapolis with a group of kids that have been through the ups and downs of a college basketball season together more than once- a group of lightly-recruited but tough-minded individuals that will utilize defensive intensity and offensive efficiency to reach the ultimate goal Hummel, Johnson, Moore and others been striving for since arriving in West Lafayette.

3. Think about this for a second: Despite losing three four-year starters that all played 30+ MPG and notched 10+ PPG, Marquette coach Buzz Williams would probably tell you that his Golden Eagles should be staring at a 12-2 (2-0) record with wins over top-ten Villanova and West Virginia and another top-25 team in Florida State. Typical of young, inexperienced squads, Marquette has simply been unable to close games this season against stellar competition. If Darius Johnson-Odom and Jimmy Butler don’t miss two front ends of 1-and-1 opportunities, Da’Sean Butler’s game-winning shot never happens and Marquette has the second most impressive road win in the country this season (just behind Pitt stunning Syracuse). Up two Saturday against Villanova, Johnson-Odom again stepped to the line up two points and 2:35 left on the clock. Both of those attempts bricked, and, couple that with a bunny missed by Butler at the buzzer, the Golden Eagles again fell just short. Rewind back to November in the Old Spice Classic where Marquette held a 30-18 lead at half against FSU and a 10-point cushion midway through the second half, but squandered the lead. I haven’t even included the NC State game where Marquette lead by 11 at the intermission. Closing out games has been a devastating problem for Buzz Williams’ squad this season, and these close losses could very well cost Marquette a spot in the field come March if they’re sitting on the bubble.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story